Will Latinos Keep the American Dream Alive?

The 2012 London Olympic Games have started. And the American Olympic dream is alive more than ever. For Team USA, the American dream goes beyond having a nice house, a car, and a nice family. Their picture-perfect definition includes breaking records and winning medals.

At the intersection of both the “traditional” and “athletic” American dreams, I found the story of Manny Huerta. The Cuban-born American triathlonist is looking forward to winning an Olympic medal; making a dream – that started when he used to live in Cuba – come true. His story couldn’t be timelier to answer the question the headline asks.

Time to Take Turns in the American Dream Race

In this relay race toward keeping the American dream alive, Latinos are very eager to take their turn. From a demographic standpoint it’s clear that Latinos are contributing to keeping the system alive. Thanks to the huge foreign-born population (12 percent of the total), the U.S. can remain the world’s richest and most powerful nation for decades. Each year over the next 20 years at least 500,000 Latinos will turn 18, adding 10 million voters and taxpayers. So, when the almost 78 million Baby Boomers retire and become empty nesters, it will be both immigrants and their children who will buy those houses and keep the housing market alive.

In the following infographic you can see how Latinos embrace the American dream.


American Dream or American Nightmare?

Most of the immigrants who came to the U.S. were motivated by either economic or educational reasons. In the case of Latinos, they see America as the land of opportunity, with 87 percent believing the opportunity to get ahead is greater in the U.S. than their country of origin, according to Pew Research. However, when it comes to the strength of family ties – a key element of Latino identity – only 33 percent believe it is better in the U.S.

Moving to America has proven to be a stressful experience for many Latinos. The process of adapting to a different culture, language, rules, etc. is a great sacrifice that many had to pay to provide their kids with a better education and lifestyle. The path to the American dream can sometimes feel like a nightmare.


Not Your Ordinary Obstacle Race

There has been a lot of conversation in the media regarding the “Hispanic Net Zero Migration“; somehow seeding the notion that the Latino impact on the U.S. economy will be decreasing. There are some truths and some myths on that. Yes, Latinos have faced many obstacles in their American dream race. The economy downturn has hit the Hispanics harder than other ethnicities. A combination of weakened U.S. jobs and housing construction markets might have fueled the thought of giving up long before reaching the finish line.

The other side of the coin is that Latinos are recovering faster than other ethnic groups. As seen by employment levels, Latinos are bouncing back from a bad economy better than other ethnicities (except Asians), according to Pew Research.

Image via Pew Hispanic Center

“Another important observation to keep in mind is that remittances have risen 8% (reached $23 billion) from 2010-2011 according to the National Bank of Mexico,” said Danny Gonzalez, strategic planner at Grupo Gallegos. “If fewer Mexicans are entering illegally (doubtful), not many are packing it for a return to their dear homeland.”

Keeping the American Dream Alive

The increase of Latino youth fuels America’s economic growth. They are critical to the nation’s economic and political future, balancing the aging of America, as Baby Boomers enter retirement. In spite of all the obstacles, Latinos are poised to keep the American dream alive.

Manny Huerta says it better: “I am 100 percent America but I remember where I came from, I think I’m very lucky to be born over there and come over here and succeed. It opens the doors for many kids who come to this country with a dream.”

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